Buffaloes lock horns in annual fight in Assam

January 16th, 2009 - 12:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Ahatguri (Assam), Jan 16 (IANS) It was a carnival like atmosphere at a roadside village in Assam as a boisterous crowd cheered at enraged buffaloes locking horns in the arena - a harvest time tradition dating back to centuries. The stakes were not high but still the owners of buffaloes goaded and cajoled their tame animals to fight and win for them a prize - a buffalo as the first prize, a running trophy and Rs.4,000 in cash as the second prize, and eight other prizes.

The village of Ahatguri, 80 km east of Assam’s main city of Guwahati, buzzed with activity Thursday with the locals organising the annual buffalo fight. Some 100 buffaloes took part in the event that continued well after dusk.

For the villagers, buffalo fights are an entertaining sport organised during Bhogali Bihu, the weeklong Assamese harvest festival where traditional games accompanied by feasting mark the celebrations.

“This annual buffalo fight has been going on here for ages and is today an integral part of the Bihu,” said Pijush Hazarika, a youth leader.

The mood was one of festivity with hundreds of people thronging the fighting ring with drums and cymbals, coupled with hoarse cries of the keepers as they goaded their flamboyantly decked-up buffaloes with vermilion smeared over the animals’ bodies.

After initial songs and dances and rituals performed by a village priest, the buffalo fight begins - the trumpet blares with the promoters calling out names of participants to bring their animal to the ring - a paddy field with spectators sitting in circles metres away.

“The game is not about winning or losing. What matters most is the enjoyment and bonhomie among the people during this annual buffalo fight,” said Kushal Bora, an elderly peasant engaged in buffalo fights for the past four decades.

The fight turns aggressive at times with enraged buffaloes running amok, scaring spectators as they run for their lives.

“There were a few incidents of buffaloes getting wounded in the fights and minor injuries to spectators,” said Arun Sharma, a village elder. But for the locals, it is a matter of pride to bring their buffaloes to the fighting ring.

“We provide extra nourishment to the buffaloes and keep them away from tilling the land at least a month before the fight. For us the day is special,” said Samiran Diganta, a local villager.

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